Monday, August 31, 2009

Fire, Fire, Go Away...

... and come again some other day. Man, these fires up in the L.A. mountains are threatening the home opener this Saturday. It looks like a decision on canceling/postponing the game will be made on Wednesday.

I don't know if I can wait another week...

Monday, August 10, 2009

2009 Preview: Stanford

After a bye-week, our boys head north to open PAC-10 play against the Stanford Cardinal.

The month of October will make or break the Bruin's season. They play five PAC-10 opponents who make up the bulky middle of the conference. Stanford is one of those teams, and the Cardinal could finish from 3rd to 8th and anywhere in between.


Jim Harbaugh got great news this off season when running back Toby Gerhart decided to stick with football and not enter the MLB draft. Toby was the main reasons Stanford ranked 19th nationally in rushing offense last least.

Gerhart is a beast of a running back, built like a tank and difficult to bring down. He piled up 138 yards and 2 TDs last year at the Rose Bowl. He will be defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough's #1 priority entering the game. Expect the Bruins to stack against the run and strong safety Glen Love to play a crucial support role.

Even though the Cardinal ran the ball well last year, they balanced that with a very poor passing attack. Like Neuheisel, Harbaugh has decided to put a freshman signal caller on the field this fall to try and jump start the offense. Andrew Luck has surpassed senior quarterback Travita Pritchard on the depth chart and hopes are high on the Farm that the 4-star recruit from Houston Texas will be much more productive.

Upfront, the Cardinal must replace two all-league lineman and that task won't be easy. In the off season, the coaching staff shuffled and experimented with a number of different player combination. They'll be looking for cohesion, much like UCLA's O-line, and they may not have found that chemistry when the Bruins come to town in week five.


The Cardinal are tough up front but this defense gets progressively weaker, and less experienced, in the linebacking corp and secondary.

There is little doubt that the strength of the defense is along the line. Ekom Udofia, Erik Lorig, and Sione Fua return and they'll put together a strong pass rushing attack.

It will be imperative for the UCLA offensive line to hold up in this game. If they can give Prince some time to find targets, he should find success against a suspect Cardinal secondary.

Bo McNally is the veteran of the unit at free safety but the rest of secondary isn't dependable. They do have some young talent and Delano Howell, who switched from running back to strong safety, looked good in the spring.

The linebacking corps is solid, but not exceptional, and I'm sure Norm Chow will look for his fullbacks and Tight Ends to create some mismatches here.

Special Teams

Stanford loses a consistant place kicker in Aaron Zagory who made 14 of 17 field goals last season. Travis Golia is tagged for the slot, but he's inexperienced and a missed kick in this contest could be a difference maker.

The Bottom Line

Like the game against K-State, this contest against Stanford may be a good opportunity for a young Bruin offense to shine.

Stanford returns a lot of starters and they have some young talent but there are still big question marks at quarterback and on defense.

The Farm is never an imposing place to play and UCLA has won it's last two contests there. The Bruins also have an extra week to prepare and heal up for this game.

Again, I think this will be a very close game bu tI think an improving Bruin offense takes off and puts this one into the win column.

Friday, August 7, 2009

2009 Preview: Kansas State

The Bruins round out their non-conference schedule with a visit from the Kansas State Wildcats. Both teams are in rebuilding mode and the outcome of this game will be a key indicator of the progress of each program.

Bill Snyder returns to the University, and the coaching ranks, after retiring in 2005. He made some headlines for immediately trying to get the Wildcats out of their scheduled game with UCLA.


Like many teams in the Big-12, Kansas State was able to rack up a lot of yards and points on offense. They accomplished that with the help of quarterback Josh Freeman, who was a first round NFL draft pick.

His backup, Carson Coffman, takes over the reigns this season. He's a typical drop-back, pocket passer but he'll be asked to run some option this season. He hasn't seen any significant action in his 3 seasons at Kansas State and he could be rattled by a blitzing and aggressive UCLA defense. I expect Bullough to turn up the pressure early.

The offensive line loses 3 starters from last year's squad, but like UCLA, the Wildcats have some young talent that could push for playing time early. The battle between the Cat's O-line and the Bruins D-line will be the most interesting battle for the day.

The Cat's were prolific through the air last season and they return some very talented receivers. Senior Brandon Banks chalk up over 1000 yards last season will be a go-to target. He's joined by Lamark Brown, who played running back in 2008, but the 6'3" Brown is a natural receiver. I'm expecting Alteraun Verner and Aaron Hester to have their hands full.

Kansas State's offense, which ranked 19th nationally last season, will have their hands full with a tough UCLA defense. I don't expect the Bruins to dominate, but at the same time, the Cat's won't be scoring left-and-right either.


On the flip side of the ball, the Cats have a defense looking to rebound from a very poor 2008 campaign.

One bright spot was the play of freshman All American Brandon Harold. He racked up 10.5 tackles for loss from the defensive end position. Measuring 6'6" and 264 lb, this bohemith athlete will be a handful for whichever Bruin tackle has to take him on.

The rest of the line isn't that imposing and I'm sure Neuheisel will look to run right up the middle against this unit. The Cat's gave up 217 yards/game on the ground last year.

Corner Joshua Moore and Free Safety Tysyn Hartman both had strong seasons in 2008. Hartman moved to the defense from quarterback part way through the year, so he'll be much improved with a lot of additional practice at the position.

The rest of the secondary is up for grabs and Snyder may be forced to play some inexperienced freshman early. I'm thinking that Kevin Prince could find some success passing in this game. We could also see some of the incoming freshman skill players, like Pressley or Carroll, have a break out game.

The Bottom Line

This game will be decided either by UCLA's defense or K-State's offense. Both have some question marks entering the season but they also have some stars as well. Whoever wins the battle in the trenches will likely carry the day.

Even though Snyder has a ton of coaching experience, it will still be a rebuilding process for this team. They'll be learning a new offense, with a new QB, and on the road against their first real test of the season.

I like the Bruins in this game, but I think it could be very close.

Fun Fact

Bill Snyder is such an icon at Kansas State that the football stadium is named after him. Snyder's first coaching position was with the Trojans back in 1966. He's one of five coaches on UCLA's schedule this season (Snyder, Carroll, Sarkasian, Riley, Kiffin) who have coached at USC.

(photo credit:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

2009 Preview: Tennessee

After the season opener against San Diego State, the Bruins travel east for a showdown with the Tennessee Volunteers in the heart of SEC country.

Lane Kiffin takes over the reigns of a Tennessee team that had one of the worst seasons of the past two decade. He stirred up some controversy this off season, but he also landed some great talent in
Knoxville. You can expect Kiffin to get his team fired up for some payback after a prime time loss to the Bruins last year.


In last year's game, the Volunteers struggled to move the ball with their inconsistent junior quarterback. This year, Johnathan Crompton is an experienced senior and his results on the field should be much better.

The receiving corps had a few guys dinged up this summer, but the majority of the starters should be ready to go for this game. I'm not too worried about them challenging our secondary, but expect Tennessee to throw away from Verner and pick on freshman Aaron Hester.

Even with an improved passing game, the Volunteers will likely lean on their running backs this season. Aaron Foster is gone to graduation, but they return their 2nd string tail back, Montario Hardesty, who scored both touchdowns against the Bruins last year. The Volunteers have a stable of young, talented backs after Hardesty, including freshman phenom Bryce Brown.

Whoever gets the rock will have an experienced, senior-laden offensive line to run behind. The Volunteers return four of the big guys up front. UCLA's defensive line will be severely challenged in this game and it will be up to Brian Price and the linebacking corps to step up big.

Why this Volunteer team didn't run, run, run last year at the Rose Bowl is still a mystery to me. They did well on the ground collecting 177 yards and two scores. You can bet that the new coaching staff will focus more on the ground game this time around.


Last year, in the Rose Bowl, the Volunteer defense went into prevent mode with a few minutes left to play in the fourth quarter. Like the old expression goes, the only thing that prevented was victory. Expect new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin to bring a much more aggressive and attacking game plan in this rematch.

It is a huge understatement to say that Kevin Prince will be going into the lion's den at Neyland Stadium. One Hundred Thousand orange clad fans will greet this kid on his first college road game ever.

Chow and Neuheisel will try to establish a running game early to take some pressure of the freshman. That won't be easy against a Volunteer defense that ranked 12th in the nation last season against the run. Like the Bruins, Tennessee has some depth concerns along their defensive line, but that should not be an issue when UCLA comes to town in early September.

One player that Prince will try to avoid every play is All American free safety Eric Berry. He was the SEC defensive player of the year last season and is close to setting an NCAA record for interception return yards. The rest of the secondary is talented as well and the Bruins will not want to test this unit very often.

Special Teams

Missed field goals doomed the Vols last year. Place kicker
Daniel Lincoln returns and I'm sure he's worked on his accuracy in the offseason.

Berry is so talented, he could return punts and kicks this season.

The Bottom Line

The Volunteers are in their first year under an entirely new coaching staff and scheme. UCLA will be their first real test of the season and they will likely have some hickups.

However, it will take an immense effort from Kevin Prince and the offense to win this one. It might be too much for ask so early in the season.

The last PAC-10 team to visit Nashville got embarrassed. I think the Bruins will do much better but I don't see this one ending in victory.

Interesting Fact

This season, UCLA is playing it's two most common non-conference foes. This will be the 14th meeting of the Volunteers and Bruins, second only to week one opponent San Diego State who the Bruins will be playing for the 22nd time.

Monday, August 3, 2009

2009 Preview: San Diego State

First up for the Bruins this year is a rebuilding San Deigo State program. Fresh off the hire of Ball State's Brady Hoke (who went 12-2 last season with the Cardinals), the Aztecs have a long way to go before they'll compete with the best of the Mountain West Conference. Which isn't to say they won't be a good test for the Bruins. This is a team that could throw a wrench into UCLA's game plan for 2009.


The strength of the Aztec's offense will be it's passing attack. Ryan Lindley showed a lot of promise last season as a freshman. His 16 touchdowns and 2,650 yards last season were impressive. He'll have the services of a number of talented receivers. The Aztecs return three starters from last season including Vincent Brown (the leading receiver) and add senior DeMarco Sampson who had a strong spring.

UCLA's secondary should be up to the challenge of containing the Aztec's passing game. Verner doesn't need much help, so Moore can backup Hester. I could see Bullough utilizing a nickle defense at times and asking his front four to put pressure on Lindley.

One big problem, historically, for San Diego State has been a lack of strong, physical play. Last year, the offensive line took a beating and the running game was one of the worst in the country. Hoke stressed mental toughness during the spring, but I don't think this Aztec team will be entirely remade by the Fall.

They have experience at tail back, but senor Atiyyah Henderson isn't a big back and not much of a threat. He only put up 490 yards last season and his teammate Brandon Sullivan was no better. Bozworth, Ayers and Carter shouldn't have much trouble containing the backs and forcing the Aztecs to have to pass for first downs.


The Aztec defense was pretty bad last season, giving up a ton of yards and points in a very strong MWC. New defensive coordinator, and former New Mexico head coach, Rocky Long should give them an instant shot of confidence and inject some more toughness.

The Aztecs return pretty much their entire front 7. They weren't very good at stopping the run last year, nor were they good at getting after the quarterback. That should play well for UCLA, as Chow would probably prefer to take some of the pressure of of Prince in his first start by running the ball down SDSU's throat.

The Aztecs do have a good linebacker in Luke Laolagi who had almost 100 tackles last season.

Long will be installing his signature 3-3-5 defense. That will likely be a challenge for the Aztecs to execute in their first few games. Not only is it a brand new scheme, but they only return 1 player, Aaron Moore, in the secondary.

The 3-3-5 should allow UCLA to run fairly well, but it's a tricky defense to play against as a quarterback. The extra defensive back will likely be a big challenge for Prince. Ben Olsen struggled mightly against Rice in 2006, which also employed a similar defensive scheme. The other big downside is that the Bruin's won't face a similar defense all season, so the this is a one-time learning experience for Kevin.

Special Teams

Both punter Brian Stahovich and place kicker Lane Yoshida return. They were solid, though not spectacular, last season. Wide receiver Mekell Wesley is back to handle punt returns duties.

The Bottom Line

With superior talent, home field advantage, and an extra year with their scheme, the Bruin should have the advantage at the Rose Bowl. I'm not expecting the UCLA offense to run away with the game early, so a costly fumble or interception could keep SDSU in this one. At the end of the day, this should be a Bruin victory.

Interesting Facts

SDSU has a number of connections to UCLA. Kevin Craft was their former quarterback and his dad, Tom Craft, was their coach. Both Aztec Coordinators, Rocky Long and Al Borges, were former coordinators at UCLA. Borges was the OC under Bob Toldeo (1996-2000) and helped direct some of the best offenses in Bruin history. Rocky Long was the DC under Toldeo (1996-1997) and is considered one of the better coordinators of that era of UCLA football.